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Can Buddhist Practices Help Us Overcome The Biological Pull Of Dissatisfaction?

Are human beings hard-wired to be perpetually dissatisfied? Author Robert Wright, who teaches about the interface of evolutionary biology and religion, thinks so.

Wright points out that evolution rewards people for seeking out pleasure rather than pain, which helps ensure that human beings are frequently unsatisfied: “We are condemned to always want things to be a little different, always want a little more,” he says. “We’re not designed by natural selection to be happy.”

But all is not lost. In his new book, Why Buddhism is True, Wright makes the case that some Buddhist practices can help humans overcome the biological pull towards dissatisfaction.

“I think of mindfulness meditation as almost a rebellion against natural selection,” he says. “Natural selection is the process that created us. It gave us our values. It sets our agenda, and Buddhism says, ‘We don’t have to play this game.’ ”

Illustration: Veronica Grech/Getty Images